KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In light of celebrating Women’s History Month, female entrepreneurs through InnovateHER KC met to support each other’s businesses on Saturday.
Founder and CEO of InnovateHER KC Lauren Conaway says events like this help women in the community find opportunities for leverage and collaboration.
The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow year after year, but according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, women are still underrepresented in the market, making up only 21% of employer businesses.
“I started the business in 2020 during the pandemic, so it’s been quite the journey,” said Jennifer Agnew, owner of Good Bitter Best. “My original business plan was to scale and sell to bars and have pop-ups at people’s houses and to try to make the cocktails for people, and then they can try the bitters. And none of that could happen.”
Quarantine orders made it difficult for Agnew to launch her company in person, but InnovateHER KC’s strong network of women-owned businesses gave her an outlet to network and gain momentum. She now turns to guidance from other working women when facing industry challenges and gender inequality.
“When you look at a man vs. a woman in business and how seriously you are taken, the pay gap I know is still there and that’s a real thing,” Agnew said. “It is harder for women just going and getting funded.”
But knowing she is paving the way for others creates the motivation to keep going.
“Having women present and active and as a leadership role is so important for our little ones coming up so they can see themselves in that role and know it’s possible for them as well,” Agnew said.
For Cynthia Fails, founder and CEO of LaunchCrate Publishing, her decision to start a publishing business came from a desire to close an existing profit gap within the industry, especially for minority writers.
She is hoping to teach young writers how to open up those gates and empower them to reap the benefits of their own hard work.
“Find a network of support who is willing to lift you as you climb, and be willing to lift someone else up as you go as well,” Fails said. “The support that I have received from other women has been invaluable in my journey, and it usually comes right at the moment where I’m doubting whether or not I should be continuing on this path.”